If you were to visit any of your local motorcycle dealers today and browse through a few of the brochures, chances are the rider you'll be looking at most often is this funny-looking, cruiser wanna-be guy -- me. From a Kawasaki Vulcan to a Honda Aero, I've ridden them all. Who would have thought a professional roadracer would also have some fairly good knowledge of street cruisers as well? I'm happy to say that I've been fortunate.
True, these bikes come from different ends of the spectrum regarding what they were designed to do, but I think there is still very much that can be learned by putting these two bikes up against each other in a bit of a mock shoot-out.
Luckily, I brought my girlfriend, Tammi, along for the ride and I said something like this: "I think I'm just going to ride this thing home after all. Would you mind driving the truck back by yourself? I would hate to throw my back out or something trying to load it right before the next race." Little did she know I just wanted to mount this cool, sparkling motorcycle right away, not to mention be able to split lanes all the way home instead of sit in L.A.'s rush-hour traffic.
I fired up the V-Star and took off. The first thing I noticed when slicing through traffic were the very wide handlebars. They felt wider than ones on other cruisers I had ridden recently. I had to be really careful not to slap too many car mirrors on my jaunt home; you never know if one of the cars you hit belongs to someone that happens to live just down the street from you.
On the other hand, the R1 is skinny enough that you would have to be a pretty lame rider to actually hit a car mirror while splitting lanes, not that it would matter much, since the driver would not be able to make out the blur that just flew by.
Put Tammi -- or, for that matter, your girlfriend -- on the back of the R1 and it's a different story. Don't stop for sandwiches if you don't want to hear the whining. Tammi was not a happy camper on the back of that token slab of foam, especially when her knees are practically higher than her ears. In another setting, this is not an altogether undesirable position, but for a day of carving a canyon road on your shiny R1 sportbike, I think Tammi would normally opt to remain back at the ranch.However, the V-Star did have a couple slight shortfalls when ridden above 65 mph. For starters, its tiny little mirrors start vibrating to the point of becoming useless, and although the chassis is as rock solid as any larger bike I've ridden, the 5-speed gearbox wants another gear as the 650cc engine really starts to over-rev. Personally, I would prefer a larger displacement engine on any cruiser I would own, but a slightly smaller rear sprocket on this bike would be a great start, giving it a little more top speed. Nonetheless, for the mere $5,899.00 price tag that Yamaha is asking for this machine, it has plenty enough motor to get you around, even two-up. The added bonus of having a smaller displacement is that fuel economy is very good. I could comfortably go 175-plus miles for the 4.2 gallon fuel capacity, riding the hell out of it every second the engine was on. Not too shabby.
The $11,000 R1, on the other hand, can do 120+ mph in only the third of its six gears, so I believe it goes without saying that any freeway cruising speeds would not begin to labor the R1's power plant. And who cares what the mileage is like on the R1?
The R1's speedo is an LED apparatus that shows you exactly how fast you are going by displaying the actual number. It's still connected and operational on both my race bikes. The fastest I've measured it (I keep trying to remember to look down at it when I'm on the fastest straights) was 158 mph. I'd be curious to know if it has a topped-out reading, like 190 mph. I'll let you know.
Overall, the Yamaha 650 V-Star Classic is a well-rounded, affordable, fun bike to ride. It has good ground clearance, a good gear box, comfortable seat, powerful brakes, and a price that won't require that you get a second mortgage to acquire one like some of the American cruisers. And I'm willing to bet that it will probably continue to run like new well after you've overhauled your 'Made-in-the-USA' product a couple times.
Sure, it will lose out on the racetrack or canyon road against the YZF-R1, but with the right riders on each bike, they may be closer to each other than you might think. Tammi loved the V-Star so much she even refused to go with me back to Marina del Rey to return the bike. If that isn't a strong recommendation, I don't know what is.
Dyno Charts Specifications:
Manufacturer: Yamaha Model: V-Star Classic Price: $5,899.00 Engine: air-cooled, SOHC, V-Twin Bore x stroke: 91 x 63 mm Displacement: 40 cubic inches Carburetion: Two BSC 28 mm carburtors Transmission: Five Speed Wheelbase: 64 in (1656 mm) Seat height: 28 in (711 mm) Fuel capacity: 4.2 gallons (15.9L) Claimed dry weight: 496 lbs (225 kg)